Our Leaders Are Human
It’s easy to view leaders as a step removed from “the rest of us.” We don’t often get to make earth-shattering decions in our everyday lives. Most of us aren’t responsible for people’s livelihoods. Nobody reading this blog wields control over a nation’s nuclear arsenal (unless you’re reading this blog, Mr. President, in which case I’d like a personal tour of the White House).
Leaders, however, make important decisions. Their choices determine the direction of a nation. Their companies could add jobs or face mass layoffs with every strategic directive. They can position the churches they serve to thrive or cripple them for decades.
Under such conditions, we can’t fault people for clinging to those they perceive as good leaders and vehemently opposing those they perceive as incompetent (or worse). Naturally, we want the best leaders. We want our football teams to win the Super Bowl. We want our countries, companies, and churches to thrive.
However, when we start trusting in leaders to solve our greatest problems—when our hope in our leaders exceeds their capacity to deliver—we have lost sight in their limitations as fellow human beings.
Nowhere has this phenomenon become more apparent than in American politics over the past decade. Numerous Americans have looked to Donald Trump as a hero who can rescue this nation and establish a conservative utopia. Others have viewed Joe Biden as one who could restore order to chaos and set the country on a course to a progressive paradise. Both views look ridiculous in hindsight.
Yet we fall into this trap every election cycle. We aren’t just electing sensible politicians—we’re electing saviors. We’re looking to our leaders for peace and prosperity, and we keep blaming politicians when they fail to deliver. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to elect good leaders (biblical wisdom would encourage electing individuals with discernment and good judgment); however, we have to scale back the hope we place in them.
In Psalm 146:3-4, the psalmist writes, “Put not your trust in princes, / in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. / When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; / on that very day his plans perish” (ESV).
Even the mightiest rulers on the planet suffer the limitations of human nature. They will make mistakes. They will fail at times. And they will ultimately die, at which point they will be remarkably incapable of fulfilling their wonderful plans. History is full of instances where magnificent kings leveraged their power and influence for peace and prosperity—only to see their sons upend all the progress upon taking the throne. No ruler in history has ever proved capable of providing eternal life, hope, peace, and prosperity to their people. No boss has ever built an eternal company, capable of weathering any financial storm and providing eternal security for its employees. No pastor has ever built a healthy, vibrant, eternal-life-giving church purely through willpower, vision, and strategic decision making.
To borrow language from the book of Ecclesiastes, leaders exercise dominion in arenas “under the sun.” They are capable of advancing some measure of human flourishing—politicians can promote justice and maintain peace, business owners can manage finances in a way that creates economic advancement, coaches can drill their players and draw up plays to win games—but like everything “under the sun,” all advances are ultimately futile. We all still die. The world around us still experiences decay. All solutions to life’s problems ultimately prove temporary.
That’s why we are not meant to place our hope in leaders. We are not to put our trust in princes. Our hope should rest firmly on the God who created all things—the One who operates well beyond our physical and temporal limitations. He provides eternal life and salvation in Jesus Christ. That same Jesus will come again one day and judge the world, eliminating evil and restoring all things.
Vote for good representatives and expect them to do a good job. Hire good managers and expect them to benefit the company. Call good pastors and expect them to lead the church with wisdom. But do not expect any of them to provide lasting peace, comfort, security, and joy. Instead, set your eyes on Jesus, anxiously awaiting the day of redemption. If you place your faith, your hope, your trust in him, he will not disappoint.